Does it Apply Everywhere?

When someone gives you advice, make certain it is applicable to where you are actually researching and the time period in which you need.

Recently a poster to a mailing list made generalizations about a certain type of record. What he said is true about New England, but it’s not true about points west of the Northwest Territory. Consequently if I were researching in Kansas and used his approach, I would be confused.
The problem is that some people don’t know their knowledge only applies in certain places or are unwilling to admit that they don’t know everything.

Widows versus Veterans

Widows of the War of 1812 were allowed to apply for bounty land in the 1850s, but not a pension until much later. If your veteran survived until the 1870s, he might have applied for a pension. Two bounty land acts in the 1850s gave most veterans a total of 160 acres and their widows during that era, if they were married long enough.

I’ve been working on a bounty land application for a Kentucky widow in the 1850s whose husband served. The actual property was patented in Iowa and Illinois by men who purchased the warrant from the widow after it had been issued.

Casefile Clues subscribers will see the bounty application in issue 51.

Spell it Right

Remember when entering your place names to spell the names of standard locations correctly. Names of towns may change and may have occasionally an alternate spelling, but for counties, try and get them correct as there often are not multiple versions. There are plenty of online atlases and maps that can help you out with this…remember:

It is Culpeper, not Culpepper; Fauquier, not Fauquire; and Harford (MD), not Hartford.

If your spellings of standard locations are incorrect, some may wonder about other details you have in your records.

Where Spouses Come From

The majority of times (especially when transportation was limited), marriage partners came from

  • church
  • neighbors
  • others in same social class
  • same ethnic/cultural group

While there are always exceptions, the majority of times husbands and wives shared some of these characteristics. Keep this in mind when trying to locate spouses and marriage records of family members.

Don’t Correct

Never correct a document when transcribing it.

If you must, make an annotation separately, clearly indicating it is your annotation and not a part of the original. Don’t add to the confusion. What you think is wrong may be right.

If you have the urge to correct errors there are better places to do it.

Is State Law Playing a Role?

Remember that state statutes dictate how inheritances work, particularly when a person dies without descendants of their own. What happened in 1920 might not be what happened in 1820 even if your family lived in the exact same location.

Reading up on state statute, or asking someone with more experience with the records may be in order.

Frontier Research is Different

Research in the early days of settlement of any area is difficult. Mainly this is because

  • fewer records were kept
  • people were more mobile
  • people were concerned with SURVIVING, not leaving a record behind of their existence

As a result, frontier research requires more analysis than later research, more patience, and that the researcher locate just about everything they can get their hands on.

Have You Reviewed Your Proof?

Is there a family or a problem you “solved” a while ago? Have you looked at it since? Is it possible that you were wrong, your research was incomplete, or you were just in “la-la-land” when you reached your conclusion?

Keep in mind that everyone is wrong once in a while. A distant relative made me go back and re-visit some research I did years ago and while I’m not 100% certain what’s “right” yet, there are some holes in what I did.

It doesn’t hurt to occasionally go back and review what you thought was “done.”

My review of my problem will appear in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. Bits and pieces of the research may appear as a tip, but the whole thing is far too long for a tip .